Direct numerical simulation of high-speed transition due to an isolated roughness element

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We study the transition of a Mach 6 laminar boundary layer due to an isolated cylindrical roughness element using large-scale direct numerical simulations (DNS). Three flow conditions, corresponding to experiments conducted at the Purdue Mach 6 quiet wind tunnel are simulated. Solutions are obtained using a high-order, low-dissipation scheme for the convection terms in the Navier-Stokes equations. The lowest Reynolds number ( Re) case is steady, whereas the two higher Re cases break down to a quasi-turbulent state. Statistics from the highest Re case show the presence of a wedge of fully developed turbulent flow towards the end of the domain. The simulations do not employ forcing of any kind, apart from the roughness element itself, and the results suggest a self-sustaining mechanism that causes the flow to transition at a sufficiently large Reynolds number. Statistics, including spectra, are compared with available experimental data. Visualizations of the flow explore the dominant and dynamically significant flow structures: the upstream shock system, the horseshoe vortices formed in the upstream separated boundary layer and the shear layer that separates from the top and sides of the cylindrical roughness element. Streamwise and spanwise planes of data were used to perform a dynamic mode decomposition (DMD) (Rowley et al., J. Fluid Mech., vol. 641, 2009, pp. 115-127; Schmid, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 656, 2010, pp. 5-28).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-878
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Fluid Mechanics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 28 2014

Bibliographical note

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© © 2014 Cambridge University Press.


  • compressible boundary layers
  • instability
  • transition to turbulence


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